The final Disney animated film produced during the Walt years, The Jungle Book was a loose adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli” stories. Rollicking and funny, the film bore little resemblance to Kipling’s original, but very few people seemed to mind.
Young Indian boy Mowgli enters the jungle as a shipwrecked orphaned baby, picked up by a kindly panther named Bagheera and adopted by a pack of wolves. After the boy is raised to young manhood, Bagheera decides it’s time the man-cub was returned to his own kind. But spunky little Mowgli still thinks he'd be happier among the beasts.
After run-ins with a hypnotic snake and a herd of military elephants, Mowgli runs away from Bagheera, taking up with a freewheeling bear named Baloo. The two pals’ idyllic existence is interrupted when Mowgli is captured by King Louie, an orangutan who wants the secret of man’s fire. Mowgli’s friends come to his aid, but the greatest danger still lurks hidden in the jungle: a man-eating tiger named Shere Khan.
With rousing tunes from Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman (“Trust in Me,” “I Wanna Be Like You” and more) and the Terry Gilkyson-penned “Bare Necessities,” The Jungle Book was a true crowd pleaser. The film was also one of Disney's first to feature an all-star cast, with Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima and George Sanders lending their famous voices to the jungle characters.
An immediate success, The Jungle Book grew even more popular over years of reissues, becoming one of the most well-loved Disney animated films of all time.